No. 23 Florida rallies, edges Vandy women at SEC tourney

Mar 3, 2022, 1:01 AM | Updated: 3:03 pm
Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley talks with Kiara Smith (1) in the first half of an NCAA college...

Florida head coach Kelly Rae Finley talks with Kiara Smith (1) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt at the women's Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nina Rickards hit two free throws with 8.2 seconds left, and No. 23 Florida rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Vanderbilt 53-52 Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Gators (21-9) snapped a three-game skid and now will play No. 4 seed Mississippi on Friday in the quarterfinals.

Florida came in seeded fifth, its highest since 2016. The Gators seemed headed for a quick exit until the fourth quarter when they turned in a furious 20-8 rally. Their one and only lead of the game came on Rickards’ first trip to the line.

Vanderbilt (14-18) scored the first 12 points of the game and led by as much as 14 late in the third quarter looking for a second straight victory at a tournament where they hadn’t won even once since 2016.

Sacha Washington missed both free throws with a chance to pad Vanderbilt’s lead with 11.9 seconds remaining. After Rickards’ free throws, Jordyn Merritt blocked Vanderbilt guard Iyana Moore’s layup. The Gators started celebrating before officials sent them to the bench for a review.

The officials added 0.4 to the clock, and Florida guard Jeriah Warren got a hand on the inbound pass to seal the Gators’ comeback.

Rickards finished with 15 points for Florida, and Zippy Broughton added 14.

Brinae Alexander led Vanderbilt with 18 points. Moore added with 16. Jordyn Cambridge went 1-of-11 and finished with four points after turning in the first triple-double in program history in Wednesday’s tourney opener.

Vanderbilt led 16-12 at the end of the first quarter. Florida tied it only once at 18 on a layup by Merritt with 5:44 left in the second quarter, but the Commodores led 31-22 at halftime. The Commodores led 44-33 after the third quarter.

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No. 23 Florida rallies, edges Vandy women at SEC tourney